I know you’re probably a LeBron James hater. Most people are nowadays. I get it, because of the way he went about leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer, the whole ESPN spectacle. No doubt, he gave it to Cleveland and it was distasteful.LeBron JamesBut let’s take all of that ugliness out of the equation for a minute and look at James’ decision for what it was, an attempt to win championships. He had finally accepted the fact that it wasn’t going to happen in Cleveland, that Cavaliers management was not going to step up and give him the tools (i.e. talent around him) to do that.
The Cavs made it to the NBA Finals in 2007 and were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Then Cleveland went about trying to add those final missing pieces to the puzzle but was never able to find them. Players like Ben Wallace, Wally Szerbiac, Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Shaquille O’Neal helped the Cavs improve their regular-season record, but Cleveland was consistently pushed back in the playoffs.
James was in Cleveland for seven seasons. That’s a long time. I don’t think he would have ever left if the Cavaliers had been more serious about surrounding him with talent. All-star type of talent.
In James’ seven seasons with the Cavs, he played with a total of two other All-Stars. Zydrunas Ilgauskas joined James on the 2004-05 Eastern Conference squad while Williams was a replacement for then-Toronto forward Chris Bosh on the 2008-09 Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Two other all-stars in seven seasons.
By the time Jamison (a two-time All-Star) and O’Neal (an All-Star 14 times) showed up in Cleveland to help James, they were far past their primes.
In Miami, he has joined forces with perennial All-Stars Bosh and Dwyane Wade. It took the Heat a while to mesh. There were some concerning growing pains as the Big 2 and Bosh (why can’t somebody come up with a really creative nickname for the Miami trio?) figured things out.
Honestly, there were a lot of times this season when I thought the Heat were not serious championship contenders this season. Even with three outstanding players and two who are among the game’s best four or five today, it looked as if Miami needed to add another piece or two before winning titles became a reasonable goal.
But the Heat has played great in the playoffs. Wade and James have figured out how not only to co-exist, but to thrive. They have easily put their egos aside for the betterment of the team while Bosh is picking his spots and has actually been the go-to guy in a few of these playoff victories.
Other players like Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers are filling their supporting roles admirably and the Heat looks like a good bet to beat Dallas in the Finals, which start Tuesday night in Miami.
James was an almost universally loved player in Cleveland, where he tried and tried to lift the underdog Cavs to a championship. It was a fantastic story as he played for his near-hometown team (James is from Akron). Ultimately, though, it’s the Cleveland management that is most to blame for this nasty taste in the mouths of Cavs fans.
Again, I don’t condone the way James went about leaving town. ESPN should be ashamed of itself for airing that charade. It was not the right way for James to conduct his business. I thought he was smarter than that.
Ultimately, though, it’s impossible to argue against his decision to leave Cleveland. He was beating his head against a wall there. You saw what the Cavs did this season without about the same cast of characters they surrounded James with in 2009-10. They went from 61 wins to the bottom of the league.
I haven’t forgiven James for his shoddy treatment of Cleveland fans. They were, no doubt, as disappointed with the front office’s continuous failed attempts to put a better team around him. But they didn’t deserve to be slapped in their faces.
However, I am pulling for James and Miami, even over a Dallas team I really like and a Mavericks player, Dirk Nowitzki, who has been the best player in these playoffs.
I want James to win championships. I want the Cleveland front office to step up and admit to the Cavs’ fan base that it did a poor job of surrounding an iconic player for all those years. As it is, that front office has been able to hind behind James’ awkwardly made decision to go to Miami.
James took his talents to South Beach because the Cavaliers didn’t surround him with enough talent on Lake Erie.